Japanese Firms to jointly produce biotech drugs

Source:  Yomiuri Shimbun


Two dozen companies and two universities plan to embark on join domestic production of biotechnology medicine, a field currently dominated by U.S. and European firms, sources said.

The 24 firms, which include Hitachi Ltd. and Mitsubishi Chemical Corp., and two universities plan to establish a pilot factory on Kobe’s man-made Port Island by the end of fiscal 2014, the sources said. They aim to achieve practical use of the biotech medicines they develop within five years.

Biomedicines are pharmaceutical products made through genetic modifications, cell cultivation and other technologies. As the drugs influence only target cells and do no damage to normal ones, they are said to have few side effects.

The global market for biotech drugs is expected to reach ¥22 trillion in 2015, double the 2010 level.

The biotech drugs are to be mainly developed by a technology research association established by organizations including Shimadzu Corp., Sharp Co., Tokushima University, Kobe University and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology.

More than ¥10 billion is expected to be needed to develop the manufacturing techniques to produce biomedicines. The government will provide subsidies totaling ¥4.5 billion in fiscal 2013 and 2014.

About 260 medical-related firms and organizations, including Kobe University’s research center, are located on Port Island. The “K” supercomputer is also expected to play a practical role in simulations and other aspects of development, the sources said.

If biotech drugs are put into commercial production in Japan, it will likely curb the exodus of national wealth caused by an excess of imports. Seven out of the top 10 products in the global drug market were biotech drugs in 2012, and demand for the drugs is expected to sharply increase in the future, observers said.